Hi. Good evening. This is SGA, reporting back again. Yay finals :’)… Read for sizzling tea. 

So here we are. Another week gone, another week of procrastination gone, and another Monday night meeting gone. This week Barnard SGA took on Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Linda Bell, and I’ll let you know how this week was… interesting to say the least. 

Before you get too excited here are the external announcements:

  • Emily Ndiokho (BC ‘22): The Desserts After Dark survey closes on December 8 to pick up deserts on December 12, Chastity Gates are open from 7 am to 10 pm, check your email for the SGA feedback contact form for any requests you have for SGA.
  • Myesha Choudhury (BC ‘23): Check your emails for a Google form for any questions/comments/concerns regarding the junior class SGA! 
  • Tiffany Vo (BC ’23): SGA has meeting notes published 24 hours after every meeting found on the Barnard SGA linktree
  • Emily Lan (BC ’24): Get your booster/flu shots ASAP! 
  • Steely Forrester (BC ’24): Support the grad strike in their fight for a humane contract! 
  • Parker Watts (BC ’22): Entering the six-week mark for the grad student strike. We need a contract to get to the bargaining table! 
  • Audrey Pettit (BC ’22): Check your emails for order forms for merch offered by the senior class! 
  • Avalon Fenster (BC ’24): Barnard Mutual Aid is holding a winter clothing drive across from Liz’s, check it out! 

Now moving to the introduction with Provost/Dean of Faculty Bell. We learned a lot about our Dean; her long list of accolades includes graduating from UPenn, having studied law and economics. Bell further explained her advanced studies in graduate school while being an undergrad and being handpicked to pursue her PhD from Harvard. Bell graduated and entered her PhD program shortly after, and eventually graduated at the young age of 25 with a full-fledged PhD. From there, she moved to teach at Haverford and then to Barnard, and then to her position as Dean of Faculty. As Dean and Provost of faculty, Bell oversees the curriculum of Barnard students as well as SRI, SP2, 4+1 masters programs, and much, much more. Bell emphasized the importance and influence she has on making Barnard better as an institution that supports students’ educational needs while upholding the Ivy League standard of education. From this incredibly impressive list of accomplishments, it’s clear Bell is more than qualified to lead our beloved Barnard babes, but her delivery of these successes was surprising. As part of her introduction and presentation, the audience learned less about her specific duties and more about her educational accomplishments that, while impressive, seemed more like a long list of triumphs justifying her position. 

That tone and attitude did not end at the introduction but continued to the question and answer section of the night. Because responses were often long-winded with some (justified) animated responses from the Zoom attendees, there were only a few questions. 

Starting with Christina Juste (BC ‘22): Regarding pandemic response and class response—personal experience has shown that professors are expecting attendance for grading even though the pandemic response team has recommended faculty to be flexible. What can you do to ensure these changes? How can students advocate for themselves if they can’t attend class? 

  • Provost Bell: We have communicated with all faculty to ensure everyone is being flexible, and asking for recordings of classes as alternatives to in-person classes. Maybe there needs to be a more direct way to urge faculty to allow more leeway with students and exams to ensure public health and safety are properly accounted for. Barnard has waived requirements to show requirements for doctors’ notes further accommodating the needs of students. 

It seems that a lot of Barnard administration is doing a lot of ‘talking’ to faculty to correct policies that were published at the beginning of the year and are still not getting corrected. This is upsetting especially regarding COVID-19 policies that have been particularly unclear throughout the year. 

Audrey Pettit (BC ‘22): Regarding the words that certain professors have used to make students uncomfortable—how is the Barnard administration taking into account teaching evaluations and taking action when multiple students are uncomfortable? 

  • Provost Bell: There is a distinction between tenured vs. pre-tenure professors and the handling of teacher evaluations. For pre-tenure, the board reads all the reviews along with the department heads to make decisions regarding promotions, wage increases, and changes in teaching tactics. However, post-tenure, (e.g. once you become a ‘full’ professor) is a far less rigorous process where the department chair is responsible for writing a report regarding the professors and communicating that with Bell. 

Bell then emphasized the importance of teacher evaluations and the significance of negative reports and their effect on the further steps of professors. She also went on to explain how both tenured and non-tenured professors receive distinctions regarding funding, wages, and more depending on the service and scholar offered by professors. 

At this point, it’s clear that SGA members are frustrated with Barnard’s handling of Professor Rieder’s behavior as a tenured professor. Bell went on to explain how Barnard as an institution puts barriers up to prevent harassment. She also explained how the anti-discrimination office is there to review any biases that become aware. Furthermore, along with the Center of Engaged Pedagogy, Bell mentioned the combined effort with President Sian Beilock to adopt policies to ensure the safety of students. The irony becomes even clearer when Bell defends their stance on Professor Rieder’s class by explaining the process when widespread complaints regarding a professor occur. 

  1. Anti-discrimination claims made by staff members/students/faculty;
  2. Title IX office has an evaluative period;
  3. Depending on the outcome of this period, a full investigation occurs by a group of people throughout the administration;
  4. From there, decisions are made regarding the future of the professor. 

Kennedy Yeager (BC ’22): As we enter the sixth week of the graduate student strike, how is Barnard preparing for the strike conditions, and what is Barnard doing to support the graduate students? 

  • Provost Bell: Barnard administration holds weekly phone calls with Columbia and the deans of all Columbia schools in which almost all of them have mentioned the union strike. Unfortunately, Barnard has no role at the bargaining table. However, Bell emphasized that TAs working with their institution is essential to be successful. Last spring, she claimed, they were very, very close to a resolution but at the eleventh hour, there was an issue that caused it to fall through.

At this point, Bell’s son entered the room and she asked for a few minutes to say hi. Akin to the beginning of the meeting, there was some awkward shuffling regarding how wonderful sons are, and seeing that we are a women’s college, it seems there would have been a better audience to choose to express gratitude for men… JK but also… not… SGA then learned Bell’s son is a graduate student at Columbia, which immediately prompted the ‘Oh, is he part of the graduate strike?’ question and an even more awkward response. Bell responded in the only way possible—a defensive ‘uh, hmm, well, that is, uh, confidential information haha, haha…’ Take from that what you will, but the students of SGA reacted seeing the sudden eye movement and scrambling to the ‘camera off’ button to hide reactions… 

With that excessive use of ellipses, we concluded Barnard’s meeting after a few more yes or no questions that didn’t provide much clarification. SGA then said their thankful goodbyes and goodnights. I’ll write you all next week, I hope your finals week doesn’t murder too many happy brain cells, and remember the end is near-ish (not really lol but we can pretend). 

Bye :) 

Drawing via Ava Morouse